Tucked away in the southwest corner of Arizona is the hidden gem of Yuma. Yuma holds the Guinness World Record for the sunniest place on earth, but offers much more than warm winters and hot summers. This city is abounding with history, beauty, and family fun. Check out all these cool things to do in Yuma.
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Things to do in Yuma, Arizona
Back in the days when the Colorado was a raging river, the narrowest point was right at present day Yuma. Yuma Crossing became the crossing point for prospectors, stage coach drivers, and soldiers. As a riverboat port it also attracted sailors, traders, Indians, and outlaws. Yuma quickly became one of the the wildest towns in the Old West. In 1876, a prison with a fearsome reputation was built and families can visit it today.
At The Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, visitors can experience life as an inmate. Stories of the past whisper from speakers in prison cells. Children, especially, enjoy entering the “dark cell,” where inmates were kept in solitary confinement. The park also provides an amazing view of the Colorado River. If you want to know more about Yuma’s past, including the railroad history, stop by Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza. Kids will love climbing aboard a real steam engine.
Not all of Yuma’s past lies along the river. Just an hour north of Yuma’s city center was a booming silver and lead mine. Today, families can explore the ghost town of Castle Dome Mines Museum. Over 50 restored buildings hold stories and artifacts from the past. It is easy to imagine what life there was like as you sit in a small school house or walk through a mining tunnel.
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The Great Outdoors
Take a stroll along the beautiful riverfront trail system of Yuma or just play at the amazing parks on either end. The West Wetlands Park is home to owls, hummingbirds, frisbee golf, and the most amazing playground you’ve ever seen. The Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground was originally designed by children and is lovingly referred to as “Castle Park” due to the main theme of the design. Near the east end of the trail is Gateway Park. In addition to a playground, there is a beach where families can play on the shores of the Colorado river, picnic under a covered Ramada, and shower off when they are done.
At the Yuma Conservation Garden, walk among native Sonoran Desert plants. Children will enjoy the duck pond and desert tortoises. Want to get a little more wild? Just head up to Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors can fish, hunt, hike, and explore desert plants and wildlife. The trails here are great for families.
Get up close and personal with exotic desert animals at Wild World Zoo & Camel Farm. This is the wildest petting zoo you’ve ever experienced. Adults and children alike thrill at the opportunity to pet a water buffalo and feed a camel.
Another thrilling experience is riding the go-karts at Z Fun Factory. Play mini-golf on one of two 18-hole courses, try your hand at an arcade games, and more. This family entertainment center is a great place to take the kids to burn off some energy. Waylon’s Water World is open in the warmer months. Float around the lazy river or splash down one of the many water slides to beat the Yuma heat.
The City of Yuma offers fantastic festivals throughout the year. The most popular family event is the Children’s Festival of the Arts. During this annual November festival, children are invited to explore outdoor booths to create their own masterpieces. Families are also entertained by local performers.
Additional family fun can be found in nearby Phoenix with our article, Top 10 Things To Do in Phoenix with Kids.
Where to Eat
Yuma’s history and culture are infused into its best dining locations. Lutes Casino is Arizona’s oldest pool hall. This family-friendly grill is best known for it’s eclectic decor, including a foot coming out of the ceiling.
The first airplane landed in Arizona at what is now the restaurant, Yuma Landing Bar & Grill. Besides classic American food, this restaurant also offers guests a glimpse of Yuma history by the photos, artifacts, and newspaper clippings covering the walls.
There are plenty of Mexican restaurants in Yuma, but the one to try is The Chile Pepper. They have been serving up family favorites since 1954. Their bean & cheese burritos are known as one of the best in the nation. Looking for a unique Yuma specialty? Try a Date Shake at Basket Creations and More.
Where to Stay
A great hotel choice for families is the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel. The newly remodeled rooms provide plenty of rooms for families to relax. Free cooked-to-order breakfast from Yuma Landing is included in the stay. Kids will also enjoy the towel origami swans that decorate the bed upon arrival. The Coronado’s location provides easy access to the riverfront, downtown, and the freeway.
The Hilton Garden Inn at Pivot Point also has a great location, right along the river and is adjacent to Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza. Here, families can lounge in modern, spacious guest rooms or bask in the sun by the pool and hot tub.
Staying in Arizona? Discover the Top 10 Things To Do in Arizona with your family.
Lead image by Tiffany Vaughn.
Disclosure: The author was a guest of Visit Yuma for the purpose of sharing Yuma with the Trekaroo audience. All opinions are her own.